I am on winter holiday and seeking, as ever, thrifty things to do round and about London. I have spent all my money on presents and mulled wine, and although the lure of the Sky+ box is strong, it can't hold me until January 3rd.
One of my favourite ways to escape the madness, save a bit of cash and experience the city in a different way is to explore some of our great outdoor spaces- the parks- during the winter months. They take on a new persona; subtle, sometimes haunting, and I notice aspects easily lost amongst the flowers and noise of summer. Statues, old buildings, bare and delicate flora; even the stark skyline- they all come to the fore in winter.
Another advantage of seeking out a park or square is that London has wonderful examples in both the centre and suburbia. It is very easy to take a small time- say, half and hour- between shopping or partying and get a bracing walk in. I did this Saturday before meeting up with the hardy few of Twitterland who were still up for Winter Wonderland. It made me feel a bit more virtuous when necking mulled wine and London stout all afternoon.
Of course, I would hazard a warning about venturing out (male and female both) into secluded woodland after dark. Not only might there be ruffians intent on separating you from your iphone, I also heard of a guy up north who slipped, fell and had died of hypothermia before they found him when wandering a large cemetery. Parks are big places and quiet in winter- it's their appeal, but also requires a little common sense.
London is a city blessed with fabulous open spaces. I'm using Hyde Park as an example here today, but could reel off several more favourites (Osterly, Hampstead, Walpole, Gunnersbury, Richmond...). What spaces have you in your area? And, if they look a bit shabby, is there a local group campaigning to improve them? I have several wonderfully restored canal walks near me - I remember them as muddy trolley-filled ex-canals in my youth, but now they are inspiring. Local action at its best. The more we use our open spaces, the better.